WELL-KNOWN Inverness rugby coach Craig Little has tackled ScotRail head-on about lack of provision for cyclists on trains after being turned away with his bike on the first day of the Kessock Bridge works.
Mr Little bought a £61 one-week train ticket from Conon Bridge railway station to Aviemore, where he works, to avoid having to take his car across the bridge during resurfacing operations.
But when he turned up at the newly-opened £600,000 station he was turned away because there was no room on the train for his bicycle.
"I stay at Easter Kinkell, so cycled to Conon, to catch the 7.20am train, only to be turned away as there were already two bikes on it," he said. "I need to take my bike, as there is no connecting service north to meet my return train from Aviemore, which arrives into Inverness at 6.22pm, meaning I have to cycle the 13 miles home.
"I explained this to the guard, who found it amusing and pressed the button to close the doors, not letting me on."
Events organiser Mr Little (31), of Strathbrae, Easter Kinkell, on the Black Isle, said he later spoke to ScotRail who told him he could not reserve bike space on the Inverness-Conon journey and the best bet was to turn up on the day.
"I thought this station was being opened to help commuters during the roadworks period," he added.
"This clearly isn’t the case. What is the point in putting on a service to help with the commute, if you can’t actually use it? Cyclists are being treated as second class citizens once again."
He asked the customer services for his week ticket to be refunded and was told he will need to pay a £10 administration fee.
"I am now going to have to revert back to using the car to get to work in Aviemore — just one more car on the road using the bridge," he said.
Mr Little, also a player for Highland Rugby Club which meets at the Canal pitches in Inverness, added: "I had geared myself up for cycling by buying new lights for my bike and a new jacket, but now it looks as though I might be driving every day. It’s very annoying and very frustrating."
ScotRail said trains serving Conon Bridge normally have space for four bicycles on board but a different train, with two cycle spaces, was used on Monday morning’s 7.20am service due to a rolling programme of train maintenance work.
"We aim to provide spaces for four bicycles on board trains serving this line, including our new station at Conon Bridge," he added.
"We are sorry that on this occasion, scheduled train maintenance meant only two spaces were available. We always stress to customers that availability is subject to there being space on board."
ScotRail added the station includes a shelter with spaces for 10 cycles and four individual bicycle lockers.